Mark learns new tricks at SERC

Fusion Heating's Mark Kerr tells us what he learnt with CMI Level 7 Strategic Management and Leadership course at South Eastern Regional College...

Mark Kerr from Fusion Heating recently completed a CMI Level 7 Strategic Management and Leadership course with South Eastern Regional College.

Mark Kerr, a Planned Works Contracts Manager with Fusion Heating, started a CMI Level 7 Strategic Management and Leadership course with South Eastern Regional College in February this year. After an intensive start to the programme, initial thoughts of ‘how am I going to do this?’ changed to immense pride in all that has been achieved over the last five months, including negotiating the learning curve of moving from on site to online learning – the College’s immediate response to lockdown.

Mark, 36, originally from Lisburn has settled in Glenavy and is married with 2 children. The youngest of six children, Mark left St. Patrick’s High School, Lisburn with 9 GCSEs ready to start his career. He said, “My first job was with Northern Ireland Housing Executive when I left school in 2000 aged 17. I worked here for over four years and completed an NVQ in Business Administration.

“I then joined HEAT Ltd, a local Heating company, in 2004 where I remained for 15 years through various acquisitions including Eaga plc & Carillion plc. I held various roles, ultimately progressing to a senior position as Contract Manager. This experience was invaluable and was fundamental to the development of my project and people management skills.

“I successfully secured a position with Fusion Heating, my current employer, in 2019 as Planned Works Contract Manager, where I am currently responsible for agreeing programmes of work and delivering planned heating installations for two of Northern Irelands largest social housing providers Choice and Radius Housing Association. The role involves a lot of interaction with clients, tenants, suppliers, and heating installers and with this comes a lot of planning, often up to a year in advance.

“I have always been keen to learn and progress and have completed a number of qualifications through work and college over the years, most recently IOSH and NEBOSH with SERC. I had been thinking about further study along the lines of business or management and it was our Managing Director, Bill Cherry at Fusion who suggested signing up for the CMI Level 7 Strategic Management and Leadership qualification which we both felt would be a natural progression to develop my managerial and project management skills.

He added, “The first two days of the course were really intense and my initial thought at the end of the first evening was ‘how am I going to do this?’. The speakers and the variety of how the course was delivered kept me interested. Before our second set of sessions commenced, the country was preparing to go into lockdown and SERC had moved learning to online for all students. I knew it would be a challenge to keep it going, but the online content and continued delivery through Microsoft Teams brought a new way of doing things – the dynamism shown by the College was exceptional.

“Since completing the course my approach to certain tasks has changed. I am much more conscious of my individual management style and the importance of involving all key stakeholders in decision making. My decisions are much more strategic. I would encourage anyone working at senior management level to think about the course.

He concluded, “As for going back to college? I grew up in Lisburn and what was traditionally known as ‘the tech’ was regarded as the place for young apprentices. It’s refreshing to see SERC leading the way for businesses, offering a whole host of programmes, both for individuals and businesses such as Fusion Heating who have availed of gas and electrical training for our teams over the years, as well as business and management. The College is our first port of call for educational and training services.”

Jenny McConnell, Deputy Head of School and CMI Level 7 Programme Lead at SERC said, “The CMI Level 7 Strategic Management and Leadership is designed for Managers who are already operating at strategic level and aims to improve their ability to implement fundamental management and leadership models within their organisation’s strategic framework.

“When you are working at this level, we realise how difficult it is to commit to a long programme of study so the CMI Level 7 is geared towards those people who want to further themselves through an intensive programme of study and project work to gain an internationally recognised qualification in just under six months. Time away from work is minimised and work study in undertaken relevant to individuals’ organisation’s context.

“Participants complete modules on Strategic Leadership in Context, Strategic Project Management, Skills of the Strategic Leader and Strategic Reflection and receive mentoring from an expert in management and leadership. The course is now delivered 100% online to meet the needs of industry and individual learners.

She added, “This programme builds on managerial skills and knowledge of each individual and will give them a greater understanding of the various roles and responsibilities involved in strategic management. It has been developed for middle and senior managers who have the responsibility to translate organisational strategy into effective performance.

She concluded, “This qualification requires the manager to focus on implementing the organisation’s strategy so participants will work on a business improvement project which will build upon management expertise that expands business capability and enables lasting change and growth.”

The CMI Level 7 Strategic Management and Leadership is open to middle and senior managers with at least 5 years’ experience. The programme costs £1,500 (including tuition and registration fees). However, for those eligible this course is currently being funded by the Department for the Economy under their Skills Focus programme. Assessment is via practical work-based assignments.

To apply, please contact Catherine Heatley Business Development Manager, to arrange a professional discussion: You can apply now for courses commencing September 2020, for further information visit or search SERC on Facebook to find out how you could be #BetterOffAtSERC #OnlineAndOpenForBusiness